Dear Doula -
"I am due in two months and hope to avoid a C-section. My boyfriend wants my doctor to give me a "husband stitch" if I tear during labor. Can I tell my OB not to do that? Will my boyfriend know if he doesn't do the stitch?"
Sincerely, No Husband Stitch For Me
Dear No Husband Stitch -
YIKES! There's a whole lot to unpack here. I'm so sorry you're dealing with this kind of treatment, mama. Pregnancy changes so much about the body, and labor is so utterly unpredictable. It's really frustrating to hear that your boyfriend is not on the same page, especially since you're the one carrying your baby.
Is frustrating really the right word? No. Anger. I'm angry that your boyfriend seems to be concerned pretty exclusively with the state of your lady bits. But before we get into his priorities, let's talk about what a "husband stitch" is and what it means to get one.
Sometimes during labor, the perineum tears or is cut by the attending physician to allow more room for delivery. In the past, episiotomies (the cutting of the perineum during labor) were common practice. However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) guidelines have long since been updated to reflect more evidence-based practices. Specifically, episiotomies are only needed in rare circumstances (like shoulder dystocia, for example). Allowing the perineum to stretch at its own pace or tear naturally during pushing allows for easier healing.
Sometimes these tears (or cuts, if you need an episiotomy) require stitches after delivery. This is SUPER COMMON - I have had stitches after birth myself. Of course, some stitches are needed and others simply aren't. A "husband stitch" is an extra stitch (or more) placed so it makes the vaginal opening smaller. But here's the thing. No ethical doctor would EVER place a "husband stitch". They are medically unnecessary and can actually create more problems for the patient during the healing process. To that end, yes - tell your doctor at your next appointment that you do NOT want extra stitches placed, no matter what your boyfriend says. If you don't give your consent, they legally can't do the procedure.
RELATED: 15 Things To Know About Episiotomies
I'm going to call this practice what it is: female genital mutilation. A husband stitch is not restorative. It does not return the vagina to normal function; it can actually create scar tissue in the vagina. As the name suggests, it is only done so that the patient's male mate will feel more tightness on their penis during intercourse. Think about it: it's a medical procedure that does nothing to help the patient, potentially harms them, and can cause constant pain. The only person who benefits from a "husband stitch" is the person not having it placed in their own genitals.
Back to your boyfriend's priorities. I am so sorry that you're dealing with this kind of self-centeredness in your partner. Does he realize how much your life is going to change once the baby comes? Is he aware that pregnancy and birth can be fine one moment and turn dangerous the next? How is he going to handle medical decisions that have to be made if you enter an emergency situation during labor? Do you trust him to have your best interest at heart - or his?
I'm sorry if these questions dig into a sore spot in your relationship, as I suspect they may. To put it bluntly, your boyfriend needs to check himself. His priorities are way out of line, and he needs to come to terms with the gravity of the situation. Also, some factual information might help him! The vagina is designed to expand to allow for delivery and then contract back to its "normal" size. It's not broken after giving birth. And absolutely NO ONE should make a woman who has given birth feel insecure about her genitals or her body in general.
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